August 22, 2014

Darren Kennedy

2014-08-22

 

Wondering aloud about the pre-season, shootouts and Alexander Steen

 

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The actual NHL season is still pretty far away (October eighth) but hey at least we'll soon have pre-season games! That might be the ultimate sign of a desperate poolie, the day you ask your buddies to do a preseason draft.

 

More often than not the silly season ignored by fans. I tend to take a different approach. Sure, you can't really get a gauge on individual skillsets. Because certain players are working on different aspects of their game, you can't judge the box score results the way you normally would. For instance, maybe Iginla is working his way back from a wrist injury and is intentionally passing more than usual. It will pull down his shot and goal totals artificially.

 

 

Then there is the issue of rookies and AHL-bound players treating every game as if the Cup is sitting rink-side beside Phil Pritchard (and rightly so, they're playing for their job). But contrast that to an established veteran who is simply trying to avoid getting hurt and preparing for his regular slate of games come October.

 

 

Where I start to attach some value to these games is when looking at coaches and their strategies. At some point in September teams will start working on their first and second unit powerplays; establishing who is going to play where, which forward is sliding back to defence, and so forth. This is where it gets interesting. Take Jeff Skinner as an example. There are rumblings that he is going to see extended time on the first unit alongside Staal and Semin – a significant boost to his value. If that's the look we see regularly in the pre-season, it could have an impact on your draft rankings.

 

Here is the pre-season schedule over at NHL.com

 

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I just spent 400 words rambling about the pre-season and why it's important. Hard to believe it has come to this.

 

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Trying to define what exactly Alex Steen is has been one of the more fun storylines to follow this summer.

 

There are warning signs, to be sure. Last year's 62 points in 68 games was supported by an unsustainable shooting percentage of 15.6%, five percent above his career norm. He also saw an inordinate amount of ice time (20:16 per game, with 3:19 on the man advantage), surprising considering Hitchcock's history of spreading out minutes to his top guys.

 

But I certainly don't mean to belie the positives, of which there were many. His 211 shots cemented him as one of the league's more consistent shooters. A 240 shot pace (something he's more than capable of in a healthy year), would put him inside the top 30. With St.Louis smack in the middle of their contending years, his plus minus should remain intact.

 

Taking a quick look over his advanced stats there is nothing overly troublesome. A more than reasonable teammate on-ice shooting percentage of 8.9%. And a relatively low PDO of .990. There's an argument that his high shooting percentage may be cancelled out somewhat by his poor puck luck.

 

All this is to say, I'd expect more of the same from Steen in his age 30 year. You can draft for 55 points and 200 shots, knowing that there's always a chance he delivers more.

 

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A nice read over at Winging it in Motown on Detroit's zone entries. One passage does a nice job of answering a question I've heard asked many times; if carrying the puck in is preferable to dumping it in, how has Los Angeles been so successful with their dump and chase style?

 

…LA Kings – who have spent the last couple years at the top of the league in possession despite playing a lot of dump & chase hockey. The answer is – yes, the LA Kings don’t carry the puck into the offensive zone as much as other teams. Do you know who carries the puck in even less? The answer is whoever the